A contest animates Springfield
Town hopes its video secures the debut of 'Simpsons' film (set in its own Springfield)
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
BY GABRIEL H. GLUCK
The Springfield that cartoon characters Homer and Marge Simpson call home bears little resemblance to the Springfield nestled between the Rahway River and the Watchung Mountains -- or the more than 70 other Springfields scattered across the country.
But one of the nation's Springfields will host the première of the first "Simpsons" movie July 26, and residents of the Union County community hope it is theirs.
Cameras were rolling yesterday in front of Town Hall for the final scenes of a video that, if picked, will clinch the honor. Fourteen Springfields are known to be in the running (New Jersey's other Springfield, in Burlington County, did not enter), with each community required to create a three- to five-minute video showing its "Simpsons spirit."
Robin Cornelison, one of the producers of the Garden State's entry, said that with nearly three hours of video, they have a lot of editing to do to meet Monday's deadline for submitting entries to 20th Century Fox. The videos will be posted on usatoday.com, with readers asked to select the Springfield that most deserves the première. The winning town is to be announced on or about July 10.
As she prepped residents yesterday for a scene in which they would be the crowd at a rock concert, Cornelison exhorted, "Tell your friends, tell your friends' friends, tell your friends' friends' friends, to vote for Springfield, New Jersey."
The Simpsons' Springfield has a movie theater and Springfield, Union County, does not, so Cornelison urged turning Meisel Field into a huge outdoor theater for the night. But if executives want bricks and mortar, there are cinemas in just about every town bordering this 5-square-mile community of 14,429 residents.
In the final scenes recorded yesterday, 9-year-old Josh Weintraub gets a hold of a bootleg copy of the upcoming movie, starts to watch it, becomes hypnotized, and drifts into a dream in which he is playing guitar in a rock band.
And filling the bill for the band were the members of Double Deuce, many of whom either work or grew up in Springfield. The group sang a song written especially for the video, extolling the greatness of their town.
The song's writer, Bill Foley, also was wearing the director's hat yesterday, explaining to residents how they needed to make way for young Josh as he moved though the concert crowd to get to the band on stage.
They would do the scene several times, adjusting for different shooting angles, including one camera filming from high above the crowd in a bucket truck provided by the Public Works Department.
When it was over, Josh admitted he had been a little nervous. But those feelings passed quickly. "It was good," he said.
Josh's mother, Cheryl, was not surprised. "He likes this. He's not shy when it comes to acting," she said.
Ten-year-old Lauren Harrington helped out on the project where she could. "I want to be a movie director when I grow up," Lauren said.
"I like movies, and I like being the boss," she said.
Mayor Ken Faigenbaum, who had a bit part in the video, said he realized the odds might be against the town, which is far smaller than most of the other Springfields. But he was convinced that residents and friends could make it happen.
"We've got more spirit than any other Springfield in the nation," Faigenbaum said.
Whether or not the town gets to host the movie première, many enjoyed the contest.
Kathy Signorelli brought her twin 10-year-olds, Michael and Nicholas, to be part of the crowd scene. "It's just a fun thing for the community to do," she said.
Her sons agreed. "I had a lot of fun," Michael said.